I cannot pretend to speak on this subject with authority. Scripture gives guidelines on how to reject poor leaders, and some hints about finding good ones, but let's face it, there's really not much clear advice. In the end, the apostles themselves chose a leader by lots.
I will not advocate shooting craps for the position of elder, no matter how scriptural it might be. :-)
Indulge me as a recall the Familyhood Church in which I would have us choosing leaders.
I know that mine is not a popular vision, but I can see nothing less. I am tired of knowing that my neighborhood is filled with Christians whom I will probably never know well, and maybe never at all. There are mystics and theology buffs and evangelists and caring brothers and sisters living in walking distance, but I will never meet them because they drive across town to find fellowship with likeminded people. Do they forget that Paul told us all to likeminded, not merely to seek out those with whom we agree?
Mutually deciding to avoid one another does not count as likemindedness.
In my happy dreams, we are a neighborhood of believers of all stripes and we share our love for Christ together. There are some Calvinists, but not most. There are a couple of people who believe fringe things, but mostly we are all in the mainstream of common Christianity. Pentecostals, Baptists, and Presbyterians. We probably have a Catholic or two, and the Church of Christ seems to be well represented. ;-)
Without doing anything, we would spontaneously have some cool fellowship, if we could only be introduced. But a church is more than fellowship, and I want that "more" more than anything. The church is a kingdom that attacks the gates of hell. It is a bride who prepares herself for a joyous day. It is a body that nurses its own, and a garden that needs tending. The church is also the target of the common ravages of sin, the intentional attacks of men, and the assaults of our spiritual enemy.
None of those opportunities, responsibilities and cares will be improved spontaneously.
Leaders must overcome denial for any of those things to happen.
We will need to choose those leaders.
This could be hard.
My biggest fear is that we will choose those who have been successful in business. Ellen said it very well. (I quote from memory here on this airplane.) God didn't require leaders to successfully run a business, but a household.
Businessmen, and please forgive me here, are not the only people qualified to lead God's church. A board of elders composed of nothing but successful businessmen can be prone to miss the quiet call of the Spirit. We need a businessman or two leading our church, if only to make sure things get done, but we also need a whole diversity of leaders. We need some artists, some thinkers and some flamboyantly extroverted people too.
Of course, if we go out trying to fill our church leadership roles with a shopping list of personality types we will be disappointed at best and self-destructively misguided at worst. We need to open ourselves to leaders who don't look like typical elder-stock.
[Let me say a word about women in leadership before I go into how to identify a church's first leaders. Yes, I think women are called and ideally suited to fill some of those leadership roles. I don't think that is news to anyone. Let's talk about that another day, though. I really want to go through the verses that define the discussion, but I am not prepared and today my heart is with the church's need for leaders in general. Let's just say that I believe that men can fill all roles I will describe below and leave a placemarker for a discussion of whether women should also fill them another day.]
I would like to propose a simple test for who should be identified as leaders right off the bat in a new church.
Every house that has raised reputable children at least into their teens, and in which everyone feels comfortable, has a leader at its helm.
I won't belabor the point about having raised kids, and I don't consider it iron-clad, but you all know how I feel about it.
Let me belabor being comfortable in a leader's home just a little, though. The epistles refer to "the church that meets in ______'s house," and hospitality is a requirement of an elder. I think those things are great pointers. If everyone just loves coming over to someone's house, it's a good indicator that the whole family really cares about God's people.
Sometimes that person is going to be a businessman. Sometimes it's going to be a carpenter, or a cad designer or a salesman. That's cool. If the church is willing to call that person and that person is willing to respond, they will rise to the need. We have already decided that even an untrained, uncredentialled, inexperienced person with the call of God on his life is perfectly qualified to lead in the kingdom.
I say we should give them a chance. I think the church will be better for it.
FTR, I believe that ideally you should divide the number of households in the church by 5, and have about that many leaders. Every one of those leaders may not be a pastoral candidate, but they will all grow into the responsibility to keep their eyes open, and to care for the people nearest them.
Q: What about preaching? Who is going to preach?
A: Ideally, we would find out that we have all the skills that we need already in our neighborhood, but that's too optimistic. So, hire a preacher. I bet that we could find someone who would preach on the side for us. We don't need a "pastor," because some of our elders are definitely going to be shepherds.
Q: What about heresy? Who is going to keep us from falling into error?
A: Honestly, as long as we are not trying to conquer the world, we are not going to fall into grevious error. Error creeps in with pride and ambition, not with normal life. Error comes in when one Christian leader is trying to differentiate itself from all the rest and must find some new truth that nobody else has. "If we have something exciting and unique, then people will flock to us," is the idea. So, don't be unique! It's hard to decide to be normal, but that's where truth and safety lie. If a doctrine makes us too unique, and we are in doubt about it, then drop it. But, if we really are not sure, then I'm sure we can hire us a theologian, too.
Thank you for bearing with me on this. When I started this leadership series, I really did not know how I would recommend that we pick leaders. I did know that this had to be the pinnacle of the discussion, but I didn't know what my answer might be. I'm really happy with where this ended up.